Know The Rules Before You Play The Game

Randall Davey

 Picture this: It is December 1891 and the physical education instructor at the Y.M.C.A. announces a new game—basketball. James Naismith holds a half-bushel peach basket in one hand and a ball in the other. His instructions are simple: “Boys, I’m dividing you into two groups of five. I am going to suspend a basket at each end of the playing area. Each team will try to get the ball down the floor and make a basket. Let the game begin.” 

The first person with the ball starts running down the floor when Naismith blows a whistle. “Traveling,” he shouts. “You have to dribble the ball, you egghead.” The opposition gets the ball and in seconds the whistle blows. “Double dribble.” The first team retrieves the ball and dribbles toward the basket. The player postures to make a shot when a defensive player slaps the shooter on the arm. The whistle blows. “Foul! You cannot hit him! You have to guard him, you moron!” 

OK, I made up this scene. That is not how it happened. But just suppose it did happen this way. By the end of the game, how do you think the players would feel? Would they be excited about playing it again? Or do you imagine they might be extremely frustrated; or, at least, not interested in playing again? The illustration sounds silly, but the dynamic is repeated over and over across workplaces. See if this sounds familiar. 

“I’m hiring you to turn around the sales department. I like you precisely because you have never done sales, but you have high accolades in your previous field. If you can do what you have done there, you can do anything. Welcome to the team. Now, let us play ball.” 

Hiring on personality alone is like putting ten players on a playing area, suspending two half-bushel peach baskets, and handing them a ball without teaching them how to play the game. It’s an invitation to disaster. 

Get clear on the rules before you even walk on the court. If you find yourself on the court sans rules, take a strategic time out to get them in writing. Here is how: 

  1. Outline roles, responsibilities, objectives, tasks, guidelines, and measurable, time-driven timelines. 
  2. Clarify performance, review, and accountability standards. 
  3. Spell out consequences for failing to meet expectations. 
  4. Stipulate boundaries to ensure work-life balance and a toxic-free work culture. 

In time, you may add, modify, or delete rules. Until you do, play by them to increase the odds of a positive, productive work experience.

Randall E. Davey, CAP® is a financial advisor with Guide Advisors, Inc. In certain circumstances, he may offer insurance as a sole proprietor or through Guide Advisors, Inc. He resides with his wife, Bonnie in Mesa, Arizona. Randall can be reached at or by phone at 425.478.5668. Insurance and advisory services are offered through Guide Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor in the State of Washington and other jurisdictions in which it may conduct business. The information contained herein should in no way be construed or interpreted as a solicitation to sell or offer to sell advisory services to any residents of any State other than the states listed above or where otherwise legally permitted. All written content is for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide any tax or legal advice or provide the basis for any financial decisions. The information contained in this material has been derived from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed as to accuracy and completeness and does not purport to be a complete analysis of the materials discussed. 

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